Cricket: Alleyne chases the impossible

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The Independent Online
Gloucs 262 & 239

Notts 294 & 228-5 dec Notts win by 21 runs

Rain fell relentlessly on Bristol throughout Friday night, and though the weather was set fair by the normal start of play, you did not need to be of umpire David Shepherd's weight to find the water rising over your boots. An early lunch and a 1.10pm start were decreed.

The delay upset the balance that had been established on Friday night, when Nottinghamshire were 166 ahead with five wickets left. Having just lunched, Gloucestershire laid out another buffet, and invited the Nottinghamshire batsmen to help themselves to some tasty bowling. Clearly a fight to a natural finish had been rejected, and a declaration formula agreed. Skipper Paul Johnson and Chris Tolley tucked into juicy long-hops served up under orders.

In 10 overs they put on 94, and Johnson, grinning broadly, denied himself an unworthy century by declaring when on 96. The equation had been arrived at, and Gloucestershire needed 261 to win in 60 overs.

The pitch was peaceful, the sky ever bluer, but it was always going to be tricky on the biggest outfield in the country. Nottinghamshire had been in the stronger bargaining position, and must have reckoned that 10 wickets would be hard to come by, but neither side had anything to gain from a stalemate.

For the chase, Tim Hancock (and pretty well everyone else, as it turned out) was promoted above the out-of-form Trainor, and Shaun Young, fresh from his Test debut, was ready at first-wicket down. Progress was steady against the Nottinghamshire seamers, and Hancock shepherded the upper order.

As often, it was the cool experience and ingenuity of Mark Alleyne and Jack Russell that kept Gloucestershire in the hunt. One Andy Oram over saw Russell cracking an extra-cover four, scrambling a two, glancing a four and then delivering an overarm smash to a bouncer that found the long-stop boundary.

But the rate kept climbing. While Alleyne stood firm on deck his crew began to jump overboard. A draw had always seemed the likeliest result but suddenly the least probable, a Nottinghamshire win, entered the frame. Surely Alleyne would issue instructions at some point to secure the draw, but if he did his men ignored him. In a flurry of hoicks, the Gloucestershire ship went down, and Johnson was still grinning, but thanks to rain elsewhere Gloucestershire remain in third place still chasing their first Championship.

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